Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Air travail, by JD

I wrote this in 2011 when I was thinking of doing a blog post about travelling:

"Writing in the Guardian in 2007, the designer Sir Terence Conran told a story that illustrates perfectly the difference between the ethos of a publicly owned infrastructure company and a privately owned one.

Conran revealed that when he was working on the design of the state-owned Heathrow Terminal 1 and the North Terminal of Gatwick airport in the 1960s, he was pressed to make sure that he provided "lots of seating" for the public. Conran contrasted the concern the state-owned airports authority in the 1960s showed for the comfort of the travelling public, to the much more commercial attitude of BAA today, where "every square inch must be turned over to retail space."

Unlike its state-owned predecessor, the privately owned BAA is seemingly guided by just one concern: maximising profits for its Spanish-owned parent company, Ferrovial. That means out with public seating areas, and in with forcing people to pay to sit down in rip-off cafes and restaurants."

It was brought to mind after reading John Ward's latest observations on passing through Stansted Airport -

Ward's tale also reminded me of an unplanned meander through Barcelona airport (which is called appropriately enough El Prat.)

I checked in at the BA desk then looked at my gate number and access stair. The BA desk was at the foot of Stair C. My boarding pass said Stair A so I walked to the other end of the terminal and climbed Stair A. Through security check which was nowhere near as bad as these things are now. I then looked for the gate number and followed the signs past endless 'shopping experience' and, after a long walk, reached the gate. Entrance to the gate was on my left but to my right was the security check for passengers coming up Stair C!

(I think the Barcelona check-in episode was in 2000 or 2001, can't remember exactly. It was definitely before the 9/11 attacks because security after that was turned into an assault course, the poor passengers being the ones assaulted!)

I no longer travel anywhere because I have done enough travelling and have a lot of good memories but, as Ward says, our puritanical leaders do not want 'proles' like me to enjoy holidays and certainly not to broaden our horizons and our minds.

1 comment:

wiggiatlarge said...

I commented in a similar fashion on John Wards site, I lived near Stansted airport when the new terminal was being built, when finished Norman Foster showed in a Television program his simple plan for the travelling through the airport that had been incorporated into the design.
I knew someone who worked at the airport and got shown the building before it was officially opened and indeed you could see how Foster invisaged the throughput.
Within a very short time of the building opening the "shopping experience" was being installed leading quite quickly to having to make zig zag progress to anywhere and many areas overlapping, with the increase in passenger numbers the place became a nightmare an awful symbol of the commercialisation of people space.